Today I’ve been observing the work of the assessment and monitoring team for children born prematurely or with low birth weight (below 24 weeks or 1500 grams). Children and parents are referred to the programme by neo-natal specialists from the hospital and receive support from an interdisciplinary team that includes speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and psychology as well as a Kaiwhakapuawai (support worker) for Maori families. The Champion Centre is of one of the accredited providers of assessment and monitoring for children of LBW and premature birth.
Therapists work with parents on feeding and eating difficulties, speech, language and communication, social interaction, motor co-ordination problems and family well-being. This is done in an informal, relaxed manner whilst ensuring that thorough assessment is undertaken periodically (4, 8, 12, 24, 36 and 48 months).
Families talked about the difficulties of having a child born prematurely when they already had older children and not feeling like a whole family until the new baby came home from intensive care and how they sometimes felt that their baby felt more like a ‘proper baby’ once they were able to wear newborn clothes rather than prem clothes. Therapists at the Champion Centre help families to deal with their emotions when pregnancy has ended early and there is additional vulnerability relating to children’s health and development.
It was an additional privilege for me to able to hold and cuddle the babies.